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February 20, 2003 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Caring for Your Introvert An amusingly succinct essay about the "habits and needs of a little-understood group"
posted by stefanie (69 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
The online book review that was mentioned is here
posted by stefanie at 6:42 PM on February 20, 2003


"Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring."

So it really isn't just me. Thanks for the post, now I have something to think about.
posted by jdiaz at 6:48 PM on February 20, 2003


a wonderful post. thanks.
now shush.
posted by quonsar at 7:02 PM on February 20, 2003


that am the best
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:11 PM on February 20, 2003


Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts.

Heh. It's funny because it's true. [/Homer]
posted by jokeefe at 7:34 PM on February 20, 2003


It's interesting that the distinction between introverts and extroverts is portrayed more as a reaction to being alone as opposed to being in a social situation. I couldn't imagine being bothered by solitude, but, different strokes, eh?
posted by transient at 7:48 PM on February 20, 2003 [1 favorite]


The link between introversion and depression is very interesting to me, speaking as an introvert who battles clinical depression. Now, well-medicated, many of the traits that I thought were simply introverted traits have disappeared. Extreme sensitivity to noise is one; complete withdrawal into myself is another, as is severe dislike of public places. But despite being well-medicated, I'm still an introvert, albeit a more healthy one. I still require approximately two hours to recharge after an hour at a party, just as the author described, and I still wish many extroverts would just shut the hell up occasionally.

E. M. Forster wrote "I don't know what I think until I see what I said." This is surely the mark of an introvert, as my extroverted father once pointed out: an extrovert would have said "I don't know what I think until I hear what I said." To introverts, this seems the modus operandi of extroverts.

The clearest test for determining whether you are an introvert or an extrovert is the following: when you are tired, which is more energizing: getting together with a group of people, or spending time by yourself? For my wife it's the former, for me the latter, and this makes for some challenging dynamics in our relationship. Extroverts certainly need to care for their introverts, but the reverse is also true, even though it often means biting the bullet and putting up with the dreaded mingling!

Great link, great post, stefanie. INTP, and proud of it! ;-)
posted by quarantine at 8:02 PM on February 20, 2003


I don't think any one person is only one or the other, either. I mean, I spend most of my time at home, alone, but I can stand some people for hours on end, and there are certain situations that I do find socialization pretty energizing.

Of course, these people also happen to be introverts, so that makes more sense to me.

Pardon me while I go hide in my shell for a while.
posted by angry modem at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2003


Good lord, I want to mail this to my last workplace. I am a mild introvert, to the point that I preffer to work in silence, away from other people, and overly enthusiastic pleasentries bug the hell out of me. Everyone I worked with was a extrovert in a big way. A whole office of 'em. and their way of dealing with my occasional surlyness was to make fun of it. I suppose the were just trying to loosen me up, but it just made me want to pee in the coffee pot.


This article is kinda one-sided, though.
posted by Hackworth at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2003 [1 favorite]


"Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?"

A beautiful sentiment that still applies today.
posted by Irontom at 8:21 PM on February 20, 2003


Great. Now how do we get all the extroverts to read The Atlantic?
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:27 PM on February 20, 2003


but it just made me want to pee in the coffee pot.

Did that help at all?

Working summer jobs, I've always been confused at the seeming false levels of camaraderie in corporate culture. Why are we all eating cake and pretending you all know anything about me when it's time for me to go back to school?

Yeah, so I'm a bit of a cynic.
posted by ODiV at 8:37 PM on February 20, 2003


Hurray!

[this is good]
posted by ArsncHeart at 8:47 PM on February 20, 2003


INFP, who's with me?

[this is good]
posted by kevspace at 8:52 PM on February 20, 2003


I performed exhaustive research on this question, in the form of a quick Google search.

Haha. Of course, I'd never do research this way...
posted by katherine at 8:57 PM on February 20, 2003


INFP all the way! We should form a gang and go (quietly) beat up all logically-minded extroverts! Except, they'd probably come up with a clever way to defeat us, and then I'd cry.
posted by nicething at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2003


INTP, and I'd rather not be a part of any gangs, thank you very much. But do let me know how it goes.
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:17 PM on February 20, 2003


ISTP. Anyone else?
posted by swerve at 9:29 PM on February 20, 2003


This is a really good post, thank you. There are so many good lines it that it's hard to choose just one, but my favorite is:

"For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay—in small doses."


The relevant question to me is - so how does an introvert go about meeting another introvert when meetings between strangers must happen out in some public setting?
posted by vito90 at 9:37 PM on February 20, 2003


so how does an introvert go about meeting another introvert

MetaFilter!! duh...
posted by gyc at 9:41 PM on February 20, 2003


Another INTP here.

>Metafilter!! duh...
Heh. Heh heh.
posted by brownpau at 9:44 PM on February 20, 2003


vito: you go and meet them, simple as pie, and then have a nice conversation with lots of uncomplicated, not-a-problem pauses and utterly nonawkward silences. If you're lucky.

It's not crowds or people themselves or public places that introverts find taxing -- it's not agoraphobia -- it's schmoozing and small-talk and socializing. I'm 100% fine and dandy in front of ~140+ undergrads, because I'm not socializing with them; we're not interacting in that social small-talk so-how-ya-doin' blah-blah-blether way. But I don't like parties much, and small-group socializing with more-or-less strangers (ie, lunch with mostly people I don't know at a conference) is draining. Not unendurable or painful, just draining; left to my own devices I'd just as soon sit down to lunch alone with a copy of the Economist.

Oh... INTJ, and the I is rammed over as far as it will go. My I goes to eleven.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:49 PM on February 20, 2003 [1 favorite]


INFJ, INFJ, that's me!

I liked this article, and wanted to immediately mail it to every single person who has ever said to me, with irritation, "You're always reading". That goes double for my last supervisor, Patti, in the highly unlikely instance that she might be reading this.
posted by jokeefe at 9:50 PM on February 20, 2003


Hackworth: the article was one-sided, but the rest of the world feels one-sided the other way.
posted by divrsional at 10:04 PM on February 20, 2003


INFP, who's with me?

Not me, it's too big of a crowd.

I think I'm INFJ, but it's been a while since I took any test. One of my all-time favorite jobs was working in a five-person in-house design team that was all introverts. We socialized amongst ourselves all the time, in small sub-groups of course.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:09 PM on February 20, 2003


INFP, with the I somewhere around 6 to 8, depending on the day. The only problem I see with the article has to do with chit-chat. Yakking is something I love to do, when I feel like it, but it's best done with friends and new, well-liked acquaintances. Meeting new people is often absolutely nerve-wracking. After meeting and talking to someone two or three times, however, the real Ray is more likely to come out of enforced hibernation, if I'm fond of the person and he or she hasn't headed for the exit already. Probably the only problem for those on the receiving end is a tendency of said real person to talk in full, highly involved paragraphs connected to longer, highly personalized anecdotes. But life is so full of challenges.

Oh, and based on my experience, introverts tend to seek one another out. We're talkin' something similar to the "gaydar" concept at work. I also think you tend to seek out people with more general personality traits that are similar to your own, not just introversion or extroversion (which is something of a continuum anyway) per se. If that makes any sense.
posted by raysmj at 10:18 PM on February 20, 2003


INFP, who's with me?

way, way, way back in the darkened room, deborah raises her hand to be counted. casting her eyes about the room she sees that no one notices her. gratefully she lowers her arm and scuttles deeper into the shadows.
posted by deborah at 10:36 PM on February 20, 2003


INTJ.

In my last workplace, we had a large chart on one wall with every employee classed according to type. It was a library, so we had practically no Es at all. The effect of the wall chart was slightly creepy, though.

Interesting that a week that brought us the Political Compass and the Metafilter census now brings us Myers Briggs Typology.
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:37 PM on February 20, 2003


IxTJ.

It's almost always the extroverts who sign up to plan the company picnic. And they design fun activities... for other extroverts. And then they try to coerce the introverts into playing along.

A place I once worked that had a serious E vs. I problem in meetings, so we adopted a rule: No topic change without first counting to 8. That provided enough silence for the introverts to risk speaking without fear of getting stomped on by the extroverts.
posted by dws at 10:56 PM on February 20, 2003


We all need to know how to classify ourselves, Sonny Jim -- it'll make the Processing Centers' jobs so much easier.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:00 PM on February 20, 2003


all you people still talking
posted by hackly_fracture at 11:16 PM on February 20, 2003


I am making this article required reading for everyone I live with. They just don't understand why I need two hours a day of "doing nothing." (Somehow, "I just need to talk to myself for a while" doesn't cut it.) My across-the-hall neighbor, God bless her, is one of the most extroverted people I have ever met--she actually gets upset when I close my door for a few minutes after a long day.

I find the hardest people to deal with are the ones I know slightly. I'm comfortable with very close friends, and I can usually make reasonable conversation with complete strangers, but I live in dread of being forced into contact with last week's lab partner or a friend's roommate. It's just so...awkward. Companionable silence is my preferred mode of social interaction.

On preview: Heh. Once we actually get going, hackly_fracture...
posted by hippugeek at 11:21 PM on February 20, 2003 [2 favorites]


Personally, I'm pretty damn extroverted, but the kind of people who are overly sociable in a work setting bug the hell out me, too. I want to grab these people, shake them, and say, "You are my co-worker! I already have friends!"
posted by webmutant at 11:31 PM on February 20, 2003 [1 favorite]


Gotta agree with hippugeek. Being with close friends does energizes me. The worst is being with people you barely know. I'm not one to take up an offer to have a reunion lunch with people I was lightly acquainted with in High School. THAT is hell to me. I'm a student worker at an office and the only way I can escape the overbearing Extroverts is by wearing my headphones and listening to my music. When they come across me and mouth the word "hello!" at me, I just slap on my fake grin and wave.
posted by LexRockhard at 11:46 PM on February 20, 2003 [1 favorite]


ENFP, this time. I'm actually very happy to see that this test qualified most of the traits with "slightly expressed" (extrovert, feeling, perceiving), with only the intuitive aspect as "very expressed". Every time I take these tests, I feel schizophreneic -- "well, _sometimes_ I behave this way, and others that..." I can tell you I have a strong analytical streak as well... you don't study mathematics and write software for eight years without it.

I remember meeting an old girlfriend for the first time, years ago. On our first meeting, the conversation stalled with such utter speed that we both thought "well, nothing in common with that person." As it turned out, we simply both had enough of an introverted bent that it took a few evenings of chillin' in a small group of friends to figure out that we might indeed take to one another...
posted by namespan at 11:46 PM on February 20, 2003


INTP here. A very nice article indeed, although I suspect this one of those articles that everyone thinks they recognize some aspects described in themselves.
posted by rosmo at 2:13 AM on February 21, 2003


ENFP, with a weak "E" Then again, on the Web, is there really any difference between an "E" and and "I" (assuming you're an "E" and yet using the Web...)
posted by ParisParamus at 2:42 AM on February 21, 2003


I believe the MBTI is a wonderful tool for self-understanding (or, is it Self understanding?). The one flaw I think it has is the I-E axis. I seem to spend most of my time as an "I," but a significant portion as an "E" Or, perhaps I've been reproached so many times for thinking aloud, that I've filtered my "E"ness?

In any case, I would highly recommend that people take the MBTI upon leaving high school. I only recently took it, and it felt wonderful to realize that certain traits my parents and peers had always viewed as character flaws were really inate, not-uncommon personality traits, and more importantly, the flip side of talents.

Thanks for the post!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:59 AM on February 21, 2003


Personally, I'm pretty damn extroverted, but the kind of people who are overly sociable in a work setting bug the hell out me, too. I want to grab these people, shake them, and say, "You are my co-worker! I already have friends!"

How did you make those friends? Not by shouting 'you are my fellow school attender! I already have friends!'. Or 'you are my neighbour! I already have friends!' I would guess.
posted by Summer at 3:51 AM on February 21, 2003


For all those people wondering what the heck this INTP etc. stuff is, here's a super simplified version of test. It's actually so simple it's virtually useless. except for understanding the basic concepts.

The real Meyers-Briggs has a gazillion questions and takes about an hour to do.
posted by jeremias at 4:25 AM on February 21, 2003


Actually, the real MB has surprisingly few questions, although I understand there are one or two additional parts to it for special purposes.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:35 AM on February 21, 2003


Thanks for the post, it really resounded with me.
posted by lunadust at 5:12 AM on February 21, 2003


If you're interested in reading something else along the same lines as that article, try The Introvert Advantage. It's got some pretty good stuff (including chapters about how introverts and extroverts can deal with each other in the workplace, which I found pretty neat).
posted by Badmichelle at 5:14 AM on February 21, 2003


Slightly off topic. I remember that in the astrology entry of the Oxford companion to the mind they mention one of the only serious academic studies on astrology. In it they looked into the claim that people born withe even zodiac signs were extroverted while people with odd signs were introverted (or maybe the other way around, I don't remember). They used a commonly accepted method for determinig intro/extro version (maybe the MB test mentioned above or a variation). Surprisingly they did find a correlation.
I don't have the book with me to check the details of the actual study. I consider myself a skeptic (and an introvert) but I found this intriguing to say the least.
posted by golo at 5:28 AM on February 21, 2003


Excellent article. I sent it to some of my co-workers - hopefully, it'll help.
posted by FormlessOne at 5:36 AM on February 21, 2003


(please bear with me as i've never posted actual links on MeFi.)

these sites are both good for a giggle, but might shed a bit of light on introversion.

Social Skills for Introverts and An Introvert's Lexicon

(on preview it looks like they work)
posted by deborah at 5:38 AM on February 21, 2003


INTJ here. (And a good list of all 16 types here.) Although I always come out very close on the E/I scale, and I do enjoy people and parties, I classify myself as an I--I absolutely have to have time alone to recharge.

And a great Extrovert/Introvert comparison: The Introvert's Lexicon.
posted by gramcracker at 5:39 AM on February 21, 2003


INFPs unite! Meek world domination is at hand!
In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.
I can't necessarily speak for plain jane introversion, but my experience shows me that shy introversion sure as heck is a liability for men in our society. I even lived in the midwest for a while, but it didn't help me one whit.

People don't cast you as the "strong/silent" stereotype when you're uncontrollably blushing. Why should I have to be strong all the time, anyway?

Women of most shapes and sizes in our society are likely to be approached by horny men, but if you're a guy and you're average-looking and afraid to initiate conversation, you're just plain screwed. I don't think shy extroverts really have this problem, but I could be wrong since they're a rare breed.

Although this article was amusing and probably pretty informative for people who haven't heard all this stuff before, I don't think it went far enough. A very big piece of caring for your introvert is making sure they don't retreat into their inner-world so deeply that they can't escape. Occasional breathing room, recharge time and understanding are nice, but I don't want to be left alone anymore.
posted by Skwirl at 5:39 AM on February 21, 2003


I especially liked "extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours". I've seen this no end of times in community planning meetings: X suggests a plan, and only then starts working out (aloud) the basic pros and cons that should have been prepared in advance. And also - generalising, obviously - extroverts can't resist slowing down meetings by lengthy personal digressions, jokes, and side-conversations.
posted by raygirvan at 5:43 AM on February 21, 2003


All so true. My dear brother is a hopeless extrovert. I'm a recovering introvert. Oh, the happy childhood hours spent leaning against my bedroom door with him hammering to get in because he was bored and wanted someone to talk to, and me wanting him to go away because I wasn't and didn't.*

Now how do we get all the extroverts to read The Atlantic?

More importantly, how do we get the MeFi extroverts to read this thread?

*Sharing a personal anecdote at MeFi is the recovering introvert's equivalent of AA.
posted by rory at 6:10 AM on February 21, 2003


This INTP female is frequently perceived as bitchy. Or maybe I'm just a bitch who happens to be an INTP.
posted by rainbaby at 6:21 AM on February 21, 2003


seriously, I just don't have the spare psychic energy to expend on people I either don't like or will never see again.
posted by rainbaby at 6:32 AM on February 21, 2003


ISTP. Anyone else?
I'm with you swerve.

Alcohol seems to be the magic extroversion button for me.
posted by pfuller at 7:11 AM on February 21, 2003


As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.

Now, that is entirely uncalled for. And the implication (especially found in the “Introverts Lexicon”) that extroverts never enjoy solitary pursuits, such as reading, is a completely inaccurate stereotype.

I’m an extrovert (ENFP) and my husband is an introvert (INFJ). There is no tension between us on this count, because we just respect each other’s differences. But that hasn’t been my experience in the world at large. My perception is rather contrary to the author’s. I feel like extroverts are the ones who are most often made to feel strange and awkward. I’m always being made to feel like a jerk for being open and friendly, and offering too much of myself up front. People are always saying “I am a very private person” and getting lots of approving nods for it. That’s great, but it’s really upsetting when one’s natural exuberance is met with all this eye-rolling.
posted by Fenriss at 7:16 AM on February 21, 2003


Bloody hell, another label to divide us all. Is it possible to have characteristics from both camps? I seem to.
posted by Summer at 7:19 AM on February 21, 2003


Is it possible to have characteristics from both camps? I seem to.

But then how can we categorize you so that we know what you will say in a situation, thereby eliminating the need to conversate at all. Isn't that what these exercises are for?
posted by pfuller at 7:25 AM on February 21, 2003


I took the myers-briggs test years ago and scored almost dead center between E and I, with a point or two on the I side. Either I am incredibly well balanced socially or I am a mess.

No comments from the peanut gallery please.
posted by konolia at 7:26 AM on February 21, 2003


Me and my boyfriend are both introverts (he is less of an introvert than myself, though--he likes to go out and be social a lot more than I do). Our friends thought it was really weird that we'd decide to go out to dinner and each of us bring a book to read instead of talking to each other. Spending time with other people doesn't necessarily mean talking to them, which is something I don't think extroverts get.
posted by eilatan at 7:36 AM on February 21, 2003


Fenriss: "(Extroverts) listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping."

Now, that is entirely uncalled for. And the implication (especially found in the “Introverts Lexicon”) that extroverts never enjoy solitary pursuits, such as reading, is a completely inaccurate stereotype.


What she said.

I'm an INFJ myself (in fact, I'm the aforementioned husband of Fenriss the ENFP), and I found the article oversimplified a bit past my comfort zone. Introversion, in the Meyers-Briggs usage, is not so much a behavioral mode, as it is a mental processing tendency. Shyness and gregariousness may be closely related to the introvert/extrovert function, but I have known both very sociable introverts, and very shy extroverts. Social interactions are, after all, regulated very much by our accumulated psychological baggage.

FWIW, I do often enjoy parties, and I do make small talk with my coworkers; and Fenriss does avoid engaging with strangers in public much of the time, such as during her daily commute. Still, I do need private-time for my mental health, and she does need to periodically 'join with the collective', as it were, although it's much more effective when the group into which she plunges is made up of friends, or persons of known goodwill. Random chatter really doesn't fit the bill.
posted by atavistech at 7:56 AM on February 21, 2003


INxx here... I always peg the "I" and "N" meters but T/F and P/J are all over the map.

The more I'm around people -- especially crowds and parties -- the more tired and lonely I feel. I don't even like sitting at a table in a restaurant with more than about 5 people even if I know them all well.

I do like being alone, but not ALL the time... some level of socializing with a few friends at a time, keeps me sane.
posted by Foosnark at 8:26 AM on February 21, 2003 [1 favorite]


People are always saying “I am a very private person” and getting lots of approving nods for it.

I've never encountered that reaction. I think the "very private person" line rings alarm bells with most. Those who are really very private just keep quiet and don't draw attention to themselves; those who announce it are playing a game.
posted by raygirvan at 8:27 AM on February 21, 2003


The more I'm around people -- especially crowds and parties -- the more tired and lonely I feel.
Foosnark - you've summed up exactly how I feel. I tried to explain it to a fried a couple months ago, but really couldn't pinpoint WHY I get that way. The best I could come up with was "it's just the way I am".
posted by jazon at 8:44 AM on February 21, 2003


ISTJ, with a strong leaning towards introversion.

It's funny, because, on top of all of that, I'm an only with a rather large extended family that has a large amount of introverts.

I should get my parents to take a Myer-Briggs, I'd be curious to see what they are.
posted by SentientAI at 8:44 AM on February 21, 2003


konolia, you and me both--like you, I was dead center between E and I (I/ENFJ). At least in recent years, that's shown itself in severe dread of larger social gatherings with lots of people I don't give a rat's tush about. Then, once I'm there, I'm fairly high functioning, and can even run the conversation. Occasionally I'll even catch myself enjoying it; but inevitably, there's a crash afterward where I'll want solo-recovery time IMMEDIATELY and for 3x or 4x the length spent hobnobbing.

I think I share this trait with most of my nuclear family. Holidays are spent with everybody in the same room, all with their noses in books. Solidarity meets solitude.
posted by clever sheep at 8:45 AM on February 21, 2003


fenriss: People are always saying “I am a very private person” and getting lots of approving nods for it.

raygirvan: I've never encountered that reaction. I think the "very private person" line rings alarm bells with most. Those who are really very private just keep quiet and don't draw attention to themselves; those who announce it are playing a game.

To a certain extent, you have a point, raygirvan. I think that it is a phenomena of the particular socioeconomic group with which Fenriss and I most often interact in the course of our daily routines, so YMMV, of course. We happen to live in the Washington, DC area, and 'very private person' is sometimes read as 'I could tell you about myself, but then I'd have to kill you', a kinda silly affect which has always been common around here, but has risen sharply in popularity of late.

It's also worth noting that valuing privacy is not specifically an introvert/extrovert matter; for example, some INFJs, such as myself, tend to be very free with personal details, while some extroverts prefer to keep such things to themselves, despite their need for group interaction. However, I do think Fenriss' comment succeeds in showing the flip side of the issue; extroverts are not as a rule either stupid or lacking in sensitivity to the feelings of others, and many are aware that highly outgoing behavior is sometimes frowned upon, being deemed intrusive or frivolous (a perception which is highly dependent on the specific social setting).

Personality type theory is something in which I have only recently taken much interest, but I have learned many interesting things about myself and those close to me in the process. The intro/extro dichotomy alone is far more complex than I had ever suspected previously.
posted by atavistech at 9:44 AM on February 21, 2003


infp and very..."happy" about it. i've always been secretly glad about my introversion. (shrug)
posted by ifjuly at 12:37 PM on February 21, 2003


I would send this to my neighbors so they would understand why I don't leave my apartment door open, but I honestly don't know their names even though the RA puts them on our doors.

Such is life.
posted by Tystnaden at 1:15 PM on February 21, 2003


Our friends thought it was really weird that we'd decide to go out to dinner and each of us bring a book to read instead of talking to each other. Spending time with other people doesn't necessarily mean talking to them, which is something I don't think extroverts get.

Heh. My husband and I do that all the time! We'll go out to eat and go running around looking for newspapers or magazines to read with dinner. People probably think we don't get along because we just sit there at the table reading, but quite the opposite. I'm an INFP with an extreme I, he is an INFP with only a slight I.

My mom is an E something... which explains one of the reasons why visiting her, while fun, completely exhausts me. And it explains why she enjoys sales work, while I would starve before taking a sales job.
posted by litlnemo at 7:28 PM on February 21, 2003


I like the socionic profiles. I am an INTP and thier profile fits me the best of any I have read.
posted by Recockulous at 6:33 PM on February 27, 2003


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